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Napa Valley: Road to Recovery

Brian Schaffer  Follow

napa-wine-earthquakeThe news that began to immediately flow out of Napa Valley and Sonoma County following this past weekend's earthquake was disheartening at best. While the significant damage to library collections and current vintages is a serious blow to the region – what earthquakes have provided in the form of terroir ideal for growing vines can also be taken away in seconds – the relatively limited personal injury and loss of life more than offset concerns about physical damage that can be replaced . . . in time.

Unfortunately, once the full impact is known, the recovery assuredly won't be solved in a few weeks or even months, but instead measured in years. The timing in the season could not have been worse (or better for those that already cleared out their cellars to make room for the fall harvest), as many in the region are in some stage of harvest. Do wineries turn their attention to picking grapes or cleaning up the mess and getting their tasting rooms back in order? Will their inventory be lost and how many years will it take to find out? Could the 2013 growing season result in limited product? There is also the broader economic impact on the region in the form of a potential drop off in tourism at the height of the season.

Wineries and growers are no strangers to crisis situations, including drought, disease, economic fluctuations and changes in customer preferences. An earthquake is something this group is more prepared than the average industry to overcome. Add in the strong community support and people are able to help overcome many obstacles that would cripple others.

From a communications perspective, social media proved to be the most efficient and accurate source of information. This is seemingly reinforced after every catastrophe. Wineries and trade groups were quick to provide updates about the damage caused by the earthquake and to let the world know they would be back on their feet. The issue is how soon.

We also saw numerous suggestions and pleas to support the region and buy a bottle of Napa wine in the ensuing days. It's a nice gesture, but convincing someone to buy a bottle of wine bottled years ago and is now making its way through the distribution channel is already accounted for and therefore the effort is a bit misplaced. If you really want to help, plan a trip to the region, or more easily, go buy that bottle of wine (plus a few others) and find a winery or two you can really get behind. Then go sign up for their mailing list and buy a few bottles or cases during their fall and spring release periods. Continue that cycle for a few years and you will be providing a measurable impact to the region, all while enjoying the benefits of doing so. End of Story

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